Our Healthier Kenya Initiative

Creating Public Health Awareness

Challenges Encountered by Teens

July 17, 2019
Man reflecting on life

Teen years are the formative years where they are most curious to discover, identify and explore new experiences. It is a stage of transition from childhood to adulthood and therefore comes with many responsibilities, expectations and challenges which may emanate from home, school, friends and from within themselves. If not handled with care, teenagers can have undue stress and pressure.

Several factors can affect teen students and include;

Lack of Parental Supervision:

We are seeing increasing number of kids growing without active parents in their lives to relate and talk to. These parents have less contact time with their teens more than ever before. Lack of parental supervision leads to more opportunities for their teenagers to engage, experiment and participate in risky behavior.

Lack of Role Models:

Children and particularly teens will tend to model behavior from others especially parents. It is therefore important to lead the way by being a good example to your teens. Parents’ influence is much more powerful than most parents realize.

Unrealistic Expectations:

Teenagers are prone to frustration over unrealistic expectation and enormous pressure to succeed from parents and teachers. Some parents actively push them so hard to perform at levels that the kids cannot achieve.

Negative Peer Influence:

Many teens struggle with resisting negative peer pressure and sometimes give in to avoid being stigmatized and to impress others. This can result in risky behavior such as alcohol and drug addiction, teenage pregnancies, dropping out of school, sexually transmitted diseases, and other health problems like lung cancer, heart diseases from smoking.

Dependence on Parents

A growing number of parents have become too protective thus failing to teach them important life skills. These parents don’t want their teens to toil for anything. This will teach their teens that they don’t have to make any sacrifices as everything is available to them and therefore when they are away from parents it becomes difficult to cope in the real world of compromises and priorities.

Social Media

Although social media can be used productively, care need to be taken on how teens utilize it. Some negative effects can be:

  • Increased time, increased risk. The more time teens are engaged with social media outlets, the higher the risk there is for poor sleep, low self-esteem, and increases in depression or anxiety.
  • Poorly advised. Some teens may opt not to ask their parents or other adults for advice and as a result seek advice from friends on social media which can be misguiding.
  • Cyberbullying has become a concern for parents of adolescents. Strangers, even friends, are able to hide behind the screen and say things they often wouldn’t be able to face-to-face.
  • Skewed perceptions and social comparison. It is common for teens, especially girls, to experience pressure to appear “perfect” online. Not meeting these invisible standards can cause self-loathing and self-doubt. Social comparison, loneliness and jealousy can result when friends on social media “appear” more popular and attractive or on a glamorous vacation, which can trigger depressive feelings. 5

What do we need to do as parents to help our teen students

  • Parents should meet with teachers to discuss their teens’ concerns and make a plan to help them accordingly.
  • Parents should discuss with the school nurses about their teens’ health condition and any other health concerns so as to have continued care at school.
  • Parents should monitor their teens’ academic progress and if they notice the teen is struggling academically, they should discuss with their teachers if tutoring may be helpful.
  • Parents and teachers should recognize teens challenges and help build on them accordingly.
  • Parents and teachers should have realistic expectations on teen’s academic achievements. Overburdening and exerting pressure will only make it worse.
  • Parents should discuss and agree with their teens about their academic choices.
  • Schools should have well-trained counsellors to guide teens on issues affecting them any time while at school.
  • Parents should teach their teens life skills by not making their teens too dependent on them for everything as that deprives them of future life skills to cope with even minor challenges.

By failing to identify and intervene in a timely manner, there is the danger of developing psychological problems which can ultimately result in detrimental effects like committing suicide, alchohol and drug abuse, violent actions, dropping out of school and the list goes on.

By Thuku Njenga: The writer is a public health professional having worked in various public health capacities in Missouri as an epidemiologist, health planner and educator.


  1. https://www.livestrong.com/article/511686-the-effects-of-peer-pressure-on-teenagers/
  2. http://headsup.scholastic.com/students/peer-pressure-its-influence-on-teens-and-decision-making
  3. https://www.webmd.com/parenting/features/peer-pressure#1
  4. https://www.macalester.edu/parents/tipsforsuccess/25challenges/
  5. https://www.northshore.org/healthy-you/how-social-media-effects-teenagers-mental-health/

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